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June 11, 2014

So, Eric Cantor Lost

Never before has a sitting party House Majority Leader lost a primary race. That no one saw this coming makes what would be really big deal into a GIGANTIC ENORMOUS deal as everyone rushes to make up for missing it in the first place.

A few thoughts:

-Above anything else this is good news. The political class should never feel very safe. They govern with only through the consent of the governed. It's healthy that they be reminded that that consent can be withdrawn without notice.

-The cynical "wait until after the primaries before doing anything on immigration" plan blew up in the GOP's face. Again, that's a win for good government above all else. The knew this would be controversial and they didn't want to risk going to the voters when the voters still had a choice.

-Cantor's defeat will be the cause and effect of everything. Tea party v. Establishment? Immigration? Out of touch incumbents? Main street v. Wall Street? Big government reform conservatism v. Reform with a more populist bent? The importance of money v. message in campaigns? Yep, this race has something for everyone to hang their hat on and claim victory for or be tarred with defeat.

-Team GOP will scream that Democrats pushed Cantor over the edge. This seems, unlikely.

If you think 10,000 Democrats came out to vote for Brat (that's about 1 in 6 votes cast), you'd think there'd be some sort of evidence of an organized effort. The notion that Democrats "smelled blood in the water" is ridiculous. No one saw this coming. Why would so many Democrats on their own suddenly think they could sway a race that everyone thought would be a Cantor blowout?

This is simply a case of sour grapes from Team GOP and an effort to de-legitimize Brat's win.

Interesting question for Republicans pushing this dubious theory...what are your feelings on Republicans in Mississippi actively courting Democrats to vote for Thad Cochran over Chris McDaniel?

Related: How do you think the Cochran campaign is feeling this morning? Or the Pat Roberts people in Kansas?

-Amnesty continues to poll better than it does with voters. Elections are so inconvenient. Please stop pushing the poll data, you're embarrassing yourselves.

Excellent idea: Start polling the issue the way it's actually framed in campaigns.

-National tea party groups will claim they helped Brat win and ask you to donate to them to keep the fight going. Don't be fooled, they weren't in the fight. Brat and his team did this on their own, on the ground.

-The "YG Network's Room to Grow" effort was a spin off of Cantor acolytes and the out growth of his "Making Life Work" big government conservatism initiative (read about it here) took a big hit with this defeat. The approach it represented, David Brooks was a fan, was rejected in its patron's home district. Ouch. It won't die but the momentum it was picking up is going to, at the least, slow.

-The House leadership team is in turmoil. People are already lining up to run and John Boehner's retirement plans (what ever they were or weren't) are up in the air.

Fun thought...Cantor could be replaced as Majority Leader by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is more explicitly pro-amnesty than Cantor is/was.

-My hobby horse in this: Candidate matter. Brat is a smart, well spoken guy who embodies the passion of the grassroots. You can't nominate big mouthed, conservative gadflys and win often.

Brat stumbled a bit this morning on some policy questions asked by Chuck Todd but in fairness, the guy is probably in shock. Let him enjoy the moment and give him a chance to switch gears.

If you want to change the culture and policy output in Washington you have to change the people. That means taking risks on novices but they need to have a basic foundation of accomplishment and political skills. A PhD economics professor who preaches (he has a Masters in Divinity from Princeton) the value of free market economics is the kind raw material you need.

Scalps are important in politics. The "establishment" isn't afraid of "moral victories" or "messages" from the tea party. It's a win or lose world and the tea party went from dead to dragon slayer in the last week. It's going to be a process and there will be bumps along the way but they are still in the game.

The repercussions, political and policy, of last night are going to be long lasting and unforeseeable. There will be some that we don't like but when you're playing a game rigged against you, you need to change the game. David Brat's defeat of Eric Cantor is a game changer.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:26 AM

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